Reduce the Risk of Arc Flash With a Reliable and Repeatable Repair and Preventative Maintenance Program

The importance of preventative maintenance programs can’t be understated. Especially when it comes to reducing the risk for arc flash. Accuracy and repeatability are critical to any machine operation, but that also applies to the preventative maintenance program itself. Facility and safety managers understand that repeatability makes work easier to implement.

Even the most conservative estimates say that there are up to five arc flash explosions occurring in electric equipment every day in the United States. Even more electrical incidents happen daily, but there are ways companies can significantly reduce the occurrence of these incidents to create a safer workplace.

Preventative maintenance can increase machine reliability, which decreases the need to access that equipment for repairs. This, in effect, increases overall plant safety when machines and equipment are operating as planned without the need for unscheduled maintenance. NFPA standard 70B outlines the best practices for setting up and maintaining an Electrical Preventive Maintenance (EPM) program. Additionally, the InterNational Electrical Testing Association (NETA) offers tremendous resources on preventative maintenance with their PowerTest Conference seminars.

An effective Electrical Preventive Maintenance (EPM) program helps avoid extra expenses, disruptions and potentially lost profits that may result from equipment breakdown or an arc flash. Typically, in setting up an EPM, it begins at the main service entrance and works its way through the electrical distribution system to automation and controls all the way to the machine level.

There are a variety of reasons why an arc flash may occur; it could be an accumulation of conductive dust inside an enclosure or purely equipment failure – likely the result of inadequate maintenance. In short, if electrical equipment is not maintained, then something is going to give.

An effective means of preventing electrical incidents and arc flashes is the anticipation and elimination of the conditions that may cause them. Spotting potential signs of an electrical failure include:

  • Identifying and repairing compromised insulation before it fails.
    Predictive maintenance systems can provide early warning of insulation degradation or failure. Visual inspections of the condition of insulation and electrical joints should be conducted whenever maintenance is performed.
  • Monitoring electrical equipment at critical joints including, lugs and compression fittings.
    Over time, heat cycles and vibration can loosen connections which can cause overheating and may lead to an arc flash. Thermal sensors can help monitor these critical joints.
  • Using infrared windows.
    Using infrared thermal scanning through IR windows enable technicians to perform scans without removing equipment covers or opening doors, lessening the likelihood of arc flash events caused by accidental contact and exposure.

It should go without saying, that before performing any electrical work in any form of maintenance, that it’s important to de-energize the equipment and verify that an electrically safe work condition has been established.

Verifying absence of voltage is important and the testing method to work on de-energized equipment must also be safe and effective. The electrical worker who conducts the testing needs to understand testing procedures and be repeatedly proficient with the testing devices.

Verifying the absence of voltage with the Panduit VeriSafe Absence of Voltage Tester before equipment is accessed makes it easy to verify that an electrically safe work condition has been established without exposure to hazards.

The results of having a reliable electrical safety and preventative maintenance program will reduce risk, minimize business interruptions and even extend the life of your plant’s electrical equipment.

From Problem to Solution: NFPA 70E and the VeriSafe Absence of Voltage Tester

The VeriSafe – Absence of Voltage Tester (AVT) from Panduit supports compliance in the lockout/tagout process described in NFPA 70E.

 

Electrical workers must comply with safety regulations that require a voltage verification test before servicing electrical equipment. NFPA 70E, the Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace, addresses best practices for protecting employees from electrical hazards through the use of safety programs, hazard and risk identification, training, and procedures.

One of the best ways to protect workers is to isolate the electrical supply, follow lockout and tagout procedures, and verify the equipment is de-energized before any electrical work is performed. Until now, this process has been complex and time-consuming, fraught with possibilities for human error and potential exposure to hazards.

The verification step often puts electrical workers at risk for exposure to electrical hazards while testing a handheld tester on a known voltage source, testing for absence of voltage phase-to-phase and phase-to-ground inside the equipment, and re-testing the tester to ensure it is still functioning properly.

Until these steps have been completed, it is best to assume the equipment may be energized and take all necessary precautions including use of adequate personal protective equipment.

In the 2018 edition of NFPA 70E, a new exception was included in Article 120.5(7) that offers an alternative to the traditional hand-held testers method used to verify the absence of voltage: the option to use a permanently mounted device.

The permanently mounted test device can be used to test the conductors and circuit parts at the point of work before the equipment is accessed preventing exposure to electrical hazards. These permanently mounted devices must be installed at the point of work in accordance with manufacturer’s instructions, listed and labeled for the purpose of verifying the absence of voltage, and satisfy additional requirements outlined in the standard.

The permanently mounted test device is different from the test portal interface that is sometimes used with a handheld voltage tester. Although the test portals reduce exposure when verifying the absence of voltage, this process– working with hand tools via a portal – does not meet the requirements of the new Exception 1 in 120.5(7) because:

  • It is not listed for the purpose of verifying the absence of voltage
  • There is no way to confirm that the probes of the tester are actually in direct contact with the electrical conductors inside the enclosure at the time of the test
  • They bring hazardous voltage to the door

An example of a permanently mounted device that does meet the requirements of NPFA 70E is the absence of voltage tester (AVT).

The VeriSafe Absence of Voltage Tester from Panduit is specifically designed to verify the absence of voltage and fully complies with the new NFPA 70E standard. This ultimately simplifies the testing process and reduces risk for the qualified worker performing electrical work.

Automating this process with the VeriSafe AVT:

  • Reduces testing procedure time and complexity
  • Reduces the risk of exposure to electrical hazards
  • Supports compliance in the lockout/tagout process described in NFPA 70E

A facility’s electrical infrastructure is a top priority. With more than 60 years of infrastructure expertise, Panduit is committed to developing innovative solutions to help companies achieve their operational goals, reduce risk, and increase electrical safety.

Learn more about the VeriSafe - Absence of Voltage Tester here: www.panduit.com/verisafe